Professor of Law at Yale Law School
James Forman, Jr. graduated from Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, Brown University, and Yale Law School. He worked as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented juveniles and adults in felony and misdemeanor cases. He has also won the general non-fiction Pulitzer Prize for his book Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. Read More >
How did the United States come to lock up more of its citizens than any other nation on earth? What can we do to change that? Locking Up Our Own is a book so compelling that it was named one of the New York Times’ Top 10 books of 2017, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and became an instant Washington Post bestseller. In his memorable keynote, Forman share his life journey as a child of a civil rights leader, a public defender, a founder of a charter school for incarcerated teens, and a law professor. He outlines America’s criminal justice crisis with both data and human stories. He leaves the audience inspired and armed with concrete ideas for how they themselves can contribute to change.
"James Forman, Jr. is an incredible speaker—his breathe of knowledge of the criminal justice system both past and present is quite deep. The evolution of the system from 200,000 prisoners in the 1970s to the current 2.2-million today is shocking but understandable when Professor Forman explains it. It is very easy to see how we dug this whole for ourselves in the U.S. and how we can dig our way out if we want to. Forman knows all the players in this tragic issue and he skillfully avoids demonizing any of them, which would be oh so easy to do. He’s an incredible dynamic and engaging speaker, at the end of the event there wasn’t an adult or student in the room who didn’t wish he was our teacher."
"James Forman, Jr. is a highly engaging speaker, combining hard data with moving and poignant anecdotes. I invited him to be the keynote speaker at a conference on children's rights and juvenile justice in January 2016. He was outstanding. "
"James Forman Jr. is an eloquent, engaging, and inspiring speaker. His remarks encourage both reflection and action."
"James Forman's convocation address at Macalester was thoroughly compelling: relaxed, lively, yet filled with matters of substance and seriousness. He speaks to the subjects of most importance in our times and does so in a way that is personal and persuasive. I would invite him back to speak again at Macalester in an instant."
"James Forman's expert and profoundly humanistic presentation on the roots of racialized mass incarceration led his appreciative audience to a deeper understanding of the roots of the problem and what it will take to fix it."
"Thank you! I was in attendance at the Westminster Town Hall Forum at which you spoke here in Minneapolis. I've been experiencing a great deal of frustration with our country's political "climate" now and have felt immobilized to make any impact, any difference at all. Your talk provided the motivation for me to take action. At age seventy, well into retirement, I was of the mind there was little I could do to effect a change. After exploring several of the options you suggested, I have registered to begin tutoring in the inner-city school system here."